Food tastes better when it is expensive. This theory explains caviar. If caviar were fifty cents a can, it would be sold only by Little Friskies.
I once drank a $100 bottle of wine. The experience was ruined because I didn't know it cost $100. I was at a foofy restaurant looking over wines in the $30 range—which in any other restaurant would have been in the $20 range—when the server approached. "You should try So-and-So," she offered. "Mmmmm! it's my favorite, and we only have one bottle left." She neglected to add, "And it costs three times as much."
I would have enjoyed it more had I known. Actually, I wouldn't have enjoyed it at all had I known, because had I known, I wouldn't have ordered it. Anyway, it would have tasted better because I would have wanted it to, so I wouldn't feel stupid for paying that much.
Many of my friends appreciate fine wine, and when I ask, they swear a $100 wine can definitely be worth it. But I can't stop comparing it with other things of the same value: could a $100 wine ever be as luxurious as ninety minutes with a good masseuse? A $1200 bottle of wine is not unheard of, but I bet one would never bring down a New York Governor like that $1200 you-know-what did.
A few weeks ago I wrote about morel mushrooms. I was eager to try my first one, and this spring we managed to forage a couple of sorry specimens out of the wet dirt of a wooded riverbank. We fried them up with a little flour and egg, and . . . well, they tasted pretty much like I fried up something I found in the dirt. Not bad—I could enjoy shoelaces if you deep-fried 'em. I just didn't get the hype.
Last weekend La showed up with a package of big fat phallic morels from the store. "I couldn't resist," she explained. They were $26 a pound—on sale! Twice the cost of filet mignon, three times the cost of fresh Atlantic salmon, or about the cost of a half-hour with that masseuse. (We'll leave you-know-who out of this comparison.) La sauteed them in oil, then butter, then red wine and garlic and . . . well heck, sauteed with enough butter and wine and garlic, I'd eat my underpants.
But in the end there was something magical about them, something that made you twirl them lovingly before your eye, tease them lingeringly through puckered lips, vocalizing a moan after every bite. The Morel Mystery: now I get it. You just have to know how to cook them, and you have to know how much they cost.
I had the miniscule bit of leftover morels with lunch today. Out of context, the small, humble, withered black nibs, picked out of a plastic baggie, were . . .
. . . fantastic.